Manchester City continue their preparations for the new season when they entertain Barnsley at the Academy Stadium on Saturday evening.
This will be the Blues’ final friendly before they contest the Community Shield against Leicester City, and although they have been without a number of first-team regulars in pre-season so far, the younger members of the squad have been impressing.
The MEN’s Simon Bajkowski spoke with Joe Bray in a Facebook Live to discuss the recent matters surrounding the club as they look ahead to what is poised to be a busy couple of weeks in the lead-up to the opening day clash at Tottenham Hotspur.
Bajkowski gave his reaction to the Preston friendly, whilst commenting on the performances of youngsters, the future of some forgotten names and the Barnsley fixture at the weekend.
Here are the highlights of the discussion to help you cut through the noise and get to the real story.
Reflecting on Preston
Bajkowski: “Pre-season friendlies are weird in general because you can take things from them but also you can also see things that maybe don’t play out across the season.
“I don’t, however, think we can take much from individual games, but we might be able to see some kind of pattern from the Preston, Barnsley and Leicester matches perhaps.
“If we look at City’s last pre-season tour in 2019, they were champions and it became clear that the defence wasn’t really that great even though they won all four games. They were missing that centre-back that they needed and some players weren’t quite as on it as they might have been that year and so it panned out.
“Given so many players have been away and it will be very difficult to see those. It was a good run-out though for everyone at the Academy Stadium on Tuesday. Like you say, 10 changes at half-time so and it was just Zak Steffen who came back after Cieran Slicker got injured but thankfully, he’s alright.
“Riyad Mahrez scored a very good free-kick and I thought the team did well during the second-half considering there were no first-teamers in there. James McAtee did very well and he’s a youngster that impressed last season and I thought Sam Edozie looked pretty useful on the left-wing.”
Harry Kane? Jack Grealish? Manchester City are aiming big this summer where transfers are concerned, as they aim to defend their league crown — and it could be a very exciting summer.
So make sure you don’t miss a single exclusive transfer story, analysis piece or feature by signing up to get City email updates direct to your inbox.
You can sign up here – it only takes a few seconds
Performance of City’s youngsters
Bajkowski said: “McAtee is quite small but he has grown a bit in the last year or two. He’s a number 10 who came play in between the lines and you can imagine as he goes forward with City that he’ll learn a bit more about their game in the first-team and move back as a number 8 more.
“There were a lot of David Silva comparisons flying around after what he did and it’s sort of ridiculous when we have all of these young players, but that maybe gives a flavour of the type of player he is. He was running at the Preston defence and there was a lovely, disguised pass for Edozie and I liked him as well.
“Edozie and Morgan Rogers are two players that are proper wingers or wide forwards. Rogers did very well at Lincoln out in League One in the second-half of last season. He helped their push for promotion even though they didn’t quite make it in the end. Edozie was just behind him coming up and who doesn’t like watching wingers play.
“They run at people and they’ve got raw pace. It will be interesting and I think Edozie can expect a lot of football in the Under-23s this season. McAtee should be training with the first-team for most of the season and picking up some useful tips from [Phil] Foden and others who training with them last season.
“So, there are a lot of positive stories in the academy at the moment which is good because there aren’t too many first-teamers knocking about so they need that. I know Guardiola caused a bit of a stir when he said he will use them against Leicester but he kind of has to. He played Ruben Dias and co, but they only lasted 45 minutes and you can’t through these senior players in for the whole game as soon as they get back, can you.”
Forgotten names who featured against Preston
Bajkowski: “The absence of first-team stars does see opportunities being given to players and the Covid-19 outbreak at the academy gave opportunities to other players that might not have had it.
“It’s incredible that Patrick Roberts has been at City for six years and he’s going into his seventh year as a City player. But I don’t think he’ll be a part of the plans this season. You would expect another loan or a permanent deal for him and he, Iker Pozo and Luke Bolton are players who are coming back from loans and I think it’s very difficult.
“Once you’ve had a taste of regular football, you don’t want to lose it and you want to play more and more. I think they will go onto play elsewhere this season, but City do need the first-team players to come back help beef up the squad because there’s not too long to go until the start of the season.”
Bajkowski: “I’d expect more first-team players there and if it’s anything like he’s done it before then the players who played 45 minutes against Preston, like Ruben Dias or Nathan Ake, might play 60 in this game.
“You’ve got Mahrez and [Benjamin] Mendy who have been training since the start with City. They said they weren’t going to have a friendly but then they decided that they actually kind of needed a friendly. I don’t know whether they will be undercooked for the Leicester game but they will be less prepared than Leicester are for the game.
“They are just going to have to treat it as a friendly and as a warm-up match for the season, rather than a trophy to win. If they win it – great! But they can’t risk blowing their tough start to the Premier League season by overdoing it against Leicester.
“This Barnsley game should be a chance just to get rhythm in the legs and it probably took each of the teams that played in the halves against Preston probably 15 or 20 minutes to get accustomed to each other. That’s normal because it’s pre-season and it’s normal because these players haven’t played together as often, but as more pieces go into the puzzle, such as [Ilkay] Gundogan coming back, you would expect there to be more fluency from the start.
“They’re only going to get that from matches by playing with each other. You would expect more first-teamers back for Barnsley and then more again for Leicester.”
Do you want an exclusive pre-season City preview – both in your inbox and through your letterbox? Head over here to find out more and secure your copy.